Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund (Micf), a competitive grant mechanism for businesses to finance innovative projects, has moved in to support the resilience of the private sector to weather the Covid-19 storm.
In view of this, Micf on Wednesday unveiled two rapid response windows worth $3.9 million (about K2.8 billion) to support businesses to remain solvent in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The windows—resilience and economic recovery and financial outreach—are the seventh competition windows round since the Micf’s inception in 2014 when over 10 projects were given a matching grant of $8 million (about K5.8 billion).
In an interview after the launch in Blantyre, Micf fund manager Navin Kumar said the windows, in which financial institutions and businesses stand to access grants ranging from $200 000 (about K152 million) to $500 000 (about K532 million), require businesses to provide at least 30 percent of the project value.
He said: “While we might not have been hit hard presently by the Covid-19 pandemic as compared to other countries, the ripple effect is bound to hit us hard in the coming months.
“We thought this was an opportune time to come up with a window for funding to allow the private sector strengthen their models in particular to retain jobs and improve the capacity of businesses.”
In his remarks, German Ambassador Juergen Borsh said through the transparent and competitive process and selection of successful grant recipients, Micf will provide a unique opportunity to support economic recovery efforts.
“Given the urgency of protecting and strengthening Malawi’s economy during Covid-19, it is pleasing that the Micf has eased some of its requirements, including minimum contributions which applicants need to provide to only 30 percent of the cost of project,” he said.
Chamber for Small Business Association president James Chiutsi described both windows as a relief and a significant plan which will benefit small-scale businesses during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
An analysis by the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) on Covid-19 impact showed that sectors, including tourism, hospitality and travel and supply chain and retail businesses, are also not spared from the effects of the wave.
Since its inception, Micf, through 33 projects, has created more than 2 000 jobs.